Graphic by: Maya Palavali
There were a variety of influences and artists that affected music taste. A big contribution to this is the African American musicians of this generation. Though not speaking for everyone, each of these influential musicians has fit a part of themself into some part of their listener’s personality from Rihanna’s enthusiasm in “Umbrella” to Kehlani’s gentle acceptance in “Honey.”
Here are some iconic songs from Black artists that you can listen to and celebrate Black History Month (you can find the full playlist here).
“Halo” by Beyoncé
Beyoncé has raised a generation of empowered women and revolutionized the music industry, but a fan favorite song of hers is “Halo.”
“Halo” was the first song that I remember being able to understand; through Knowles’ vivid imagery, the viewer is transported onto a plain she describes as the feeling of love. One of the best sounds in the world is the chorus of this song, the echoing repetition of “I can feel your halo.”
“Love On The Brain” by Rihanna
Like Beyoncé’s “Halo,” “Love On The Brain” is also a romance-centered song. However, what listeners specifically love about this song and why it has been on the brain is how vulnerable Rihanna is. Instead of describing love as purely positive, Rihanna instead describes her feelings as “fist fighting with fire,” and explains how she would “run for miles just to get a taste.”
The artist sets forth the reality of what one does when they want a relationship, the efforts they put forth.
“Honey” by Kehlani
“Honey” was released in 2017, back when I was in middle school. Middle school was when I was exposed to different walks of life, causing me to realize things about myself I did not want to face (for example, my sexuality).
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community was foreign to everyone around me and I thought there was something wrong with me. Kehlani’s “Honey” both introduced queer music to me and showed me how being LGBTQ+ is a good thing. Kehlani explicitly expresses her same-sex attraction in a beautiful way: “I like my girls just like I like my honey; sweet/a little selfish.”
“Classic” by MKTO
As the song title indicates, this piece truly is a classic. Created by an American pop duo, this song combines the worlds of playfulness and authenticity.
From expressing how they supposedly want to “do you like Michael/kiss you like Prince” to admitting to “thinking I was born in the wrong time,” MKTO artfully incorporates the fun and serious parts of love into a musical masterpiece.
“Replay” by Zendaya
Ever since Shake It Up, the Disney TV show that came out in 2013, the whole world became absolutely obsessed with Zendaya. As time passed, many began to realize that she was also a talented musician.
“Replay” is an example of Zendaya’s versatility and range of emotion in any piece of media. Her singing mixed with the funky background beats creates a new feeling of sound from that time everyone replayed it over and over again.
“All of Me” by John Legend
If it was not apparent by now, a lot of these are love songs. Someone who is a master of love-related music is John Legend.
Legend’s voice crooning to his lover how he “loves your curves and all your edges/all your perfect imperfections” cemented a certain standard in many a malleable mind in 2013. Because of this song, I was able to slowly realize that anyone can be loved by the right person, something I did not realize until that point. Legend definitely raised a generation of hopeless romantics.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
Finally, saved for last, is the true classic: Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).”
This song came out quite a while ago but still had a place in many people’s hearts. Houston’s voice and beat transcended its generation, making an impact on little kids even today.
It’s possible that every person in the United States knows this song in some shape or form. And, there is no coincidence that this legendary song was created by a brilliant musician with the last name Houston– it was made for us!